Friday, November 11, 2011

The Americanization of Emily

It is James Garner day on TCM. Enjoy this great film tonight!

One of my 20 favorite films of all-time. James Garner plays a self-proclaimed "coward" who takes excellent care of a U.S. Admiral in 1944 London. Julie Andrews plays his driver who has been widowed by the war. Their cynical romance is the centerpiece of the story. Garner then becomes the focus of his Admiral's plan to make a movie about the "unknown sailor". The first person to die during the D-Day invasion is to be a sailor and Garner, the coward, is to film the event. Needless to say he is unhappy about this turn of events.

Paddy Chayefsky writes a biting script. While a few moments sound just a little preachy, his anti-war message comes through with passion. The comedy portions of this dramatic comedy are dark and filled with sarcasm. Just how I like it! The dramatic portions are a loud statement on the devastation of war.

Disclaimer: I must admit to a "man-crush" on James Garner. From TV's Maverick, to The Great Escape and on to Murphy's Romance I find him to be one of the most compelling actors. Julie Andrews does a top-notch job as the priggish motor pool driver. Their love story is intriguing while their role change ending is must-see. James Coburn does a superb job in a supporting role as a naval icer as does Melvyn Douglas as the Admiral. The cast, script and direction all make The Americanization of Emily a great movie!

Director Arthur Hiller shows a light hand in dealing with Chayefsky's script. It takes a lot of courage to allow the story to unfold and Hiller shows that courage. The producers of this film originally hired William Wyler, but he refused to honor the script. Hiller replaced the directorial legend and did a fantastic job. A wonderful film that is on almost every greatest films lists that you can find. Add this to the top of your netflix queue or buy it today!

Filmed in 1964, Directed by Arthur Hiller, Written by Paddy Chayefsky, Starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, James Coburn, Melvyn Douglas and Keenan Wynn. One bit of trivia:The beach scenes were filmed at Mandalay Beach in Oxnard, CA. If you watch closely you can see the power plant in the background. It still operates today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

Happy birthday Burt Lancaster!

This film features some of the slimiest, darkest, meanest and most manipulative characters ever captured on celluloid. I felt, just a little bit, dirty after watching this film recently. It is impossible to feel any other way!

Tony Curtis, in the finest performance of his career, plays Sydney Falco. Falco is a press agent attempting to gain fame and fortune for his clients. But, more importantly, is fame and fortune for himself. He attempts to curry the favor of big-time newspaper columnist/radio star J.J. Hunsecker. Burt Lancaster portrays Hunsecker with amazing evil and contempt in every word and movement. This film should be seen just to watch these two actors give the performance of their lives. Curtis plays the toady, kiss-ass with a level of sleaze that can almost be tasted as it drips off the screen. And Lancaster's manipulation knows no bounds. Acting magnificence!

The script is top-notch. Written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, it is wonderful in its evil. They do a terrific job of giving the viewer the feel of desperation for small-guy Curtis and corrupt power of Lancaster. Director Alexander Mackendrick, coming off the wonderful Alec Guinness film 'The Ladykillers', gives us the opportunity to share in the story without pause. He just keeps the film moving towards a fantastic finish. Also to be commended is cinematographer James Wong Howe. He moves the camera through the nightclubs and street life of New York City with ease and grace. Howe had a career that stretched for over 50 years and is remembered for wonderful photography in his films.

One last technical note. Sweet Smell of Success has terrific music and score. From the jazz in the clubs to the score by Elmer Berstein the music alone is well worth the viewing. This film is dark, manipulative and evil. Oh yeah, and terrific as well.

Filmed in 1957, directed by Alexander MacKendrick, written by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, starring Tony Curtis, Burt Lancaster, Martin Milner, Susan Harrison and Barbara Nichols. Master film transfer company Criterion has a new DVD set coming out in February for this film. "Light Me, Sydney"